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From the Stands: Newstalk shine light on players' problems

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Former Offaly football manager and addiction counsellor with the Rutland Centre, Gerry Cooney, will feature on the Mark Coleman Show tonight, in a discussion about mental health problems faced by GAA players. Picture credit; Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Former Offaly football manager and addiction counsellor with the Rutland Centre, Gerry Cooney, will feature on the Mark Coleman Show tonight, in a discussion about mental health problems faced by GAA players. Picture credit; Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Former Offaly football manager and addiction counsellor with the Rutland Centre, Gerry Cooney, will feature on the Mark Coleman Show tonight, in a discussion about mental health problems faced by GAA players. Picture credit; Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

The mental health problems faced by GAA players have been gaining a lot of coverage recently and on Newstalk's Mark Coleman Show tonight, the work of one young graduate will form part of an hour-long segment featuring a discussion on the topic with Dr Niall Muldoon, a clinical psychologist involved with the Gaelic Players' Association, and former Offaly football manager Gerry Cooney, who is an addiction counsellor with the Rutland Centre.

Pádraig Breathnach's 30-minute documentary will explore the steps taken by the GPA to support players and three GAA stars share their experiences of their mental health problems. Conor Cusack, former Offaly footballer Niall McNamee and Waterford dual star Wayne Hutchinson are the players featured. They also open up about their decisions to go public about their illnesses and the stigma still suffered by those with mental health problems.

"Conor and Wayne speak about their experiences and what drove them to contemplate suicide while Niall talks about his gambling addiction and how it took over his life. He tells the story of how he lost $6,000 in a Melbourne casino one night and had to get money from his parents to cover the rest of his holiday."

The documentary formed part of Breathnach's dissertation project for a master's in journalism from Griffith College, Dublin which he recently completed. The show begins at 8.0 tonight with the discussion starting at 10.0. It should make fascinating listening for anyone with an interest in mental health and sport.

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It's not all that easy to keep a junior soccer club going long term in a rural area. As Tennessee Williams wrote about the cat on a hot tin roof, it can be a triumph just to stay there. So from that point of view, Aughanagh Celtic have done pretty well to remain a fixture of the junior soccer scene in Sligo since being founded in 1976. Last season they finished a very creditable sixth place in the top flight of the Sligo-Leitrim League.

But that wasn't enough for the plucky little club from the foot of the Curlew Mountains in the south of the county. So a few years ago they decided to look for a home of their own after many years of renting a pitch from a local landowner. It seemed an absurdly ambitious venture for a rural soccer club to embark upon at the height of a recession, but Aughanagh bought a site and drew up a plan, in association with the local parish council, for a ground and state-of-the-art facilities which would serve not only the club but the local community.

Their fundraising efforts included a St Patrick's Day Parade in the village of Ballinafad which received national exposure for being the shortest in Ireland with, for example, 48 floats travelling the 200-metre route in 2012. So this morning at 11.0, Aughanagh will play their first match on the new pitch when Carrick Town visit.

Celtic hope to have an official opening later on and to entice Sligo Rovers to play at the ground. But this morning is the one when they'll be making history. There might be bigger games on today at home and abroad, but we are not sure any of the players will feel quite the same glow as the Aughanagh players feel when the first whistle blows. They've been 39 years a growing. Now football's coming home.

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Today's All-Ireland hurling final is a battle between two Army regiments for bragging rights over which infantry battalion has the best hurlers. Three of the Kilkenny panel are serving soldiers while Patrick Maher is the sole military man in the Tipperary team.

Kilkenny Corporal Eoin Larkin is the most experienced soldier, with ten years' service. Based in Stephen's Barracks, Kilkenny, the six time All-Ireland-winning hurler has served overseas in Kosovo. His team-mates Corporal Paul Murphy and Private Colin Fennelly are also members of the Third Infantry Battalion in Kilkenny.

Like Fennelly, Patrick Maher has just two years of Army experience behind him. The Lorrha man is a member of the First Infantry Battalion based in Renmore, Galway so there is battalion and barracks pride at stake in Croke Park.

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